Bob Knight is back in college basketball, ending a six-month exile to coach a Texas Tech team that hopes he can build a winner and control his temper.
After missing his first college season since 1963-64, Knight signed a five-year, $1.25 million deal with Tech. With other incentives, the salary comes to about $400,000 annually, athletic director Gerald Myers said.
Knight's temper led to his firing from Indiana in September. He had coached the Hoosiers to three national titles in 29 years.
Seeking National Credibility
Myers said the hiring would give the Red Raiders instant national credibility.
"I think this is the beginning of something special," Myers said. "We've got the opportunity to make this program competitive at the highest level of college basketball."
Knight, 60, was the only serious candidate to replace James Dickey, even though about 100 of the university's 900 faculty members signed a petition advising against the move.
The school was scheduled to introduce Knight to the fans at a news conference on the court of the United Spirit Arena later today.
Indiana fired Knight for breaking a no-tolerance policy imposed after a series of behavior problems. His list of outbursts is almost as long as his list of coaching accomplishments.
Knight's most infamous flare-up in a game was tossing a chair across a court. Years earlier, he was convicted for hitting a Puerto Rican policeman before a practice at the Pan American Games.
Others include kicking his son's leg during a game and allegedly choking a player in a practice. The final straw was when he grabbed the arm of a student who referred to the coach by his last name.
"The General" did not seriously consider any coaching jobs until this one. Tech officials first met with him early this month in Florida, four days before Dickey was fired.
With Myers pushing for the hiring of his longtime friend, the biggest hurdle was a school rule that prevented it from being completed until 10 business days after Dickey was dismissed.
High Graduation Rates for Knight’s Players
Tech is counting on Knight to improve a program stuck in reverse since reaching the round of 16 five years ago. NCAA sanctions that cost nine scholarships in the last four years were part of the problem.
Knight, whose programs have always followed NCAA rules and had high graduation rates, should help the Red Raiders become more of a factor in the competitive Big 12, which sent five teams to the NCAA tournament.
"We've had a problem with NCAA penalties and that's set this institution back," President David Schmidly said. "We don't ever want to be on the wrong side of the NCAA rules again."
Lagging ticket sales has been another problem at the 2-year-old, $68 million United Spirit Arena. Tech's high-profile women's program consistently outdrew the men's team and has been far more popular. While that may change soon, Lady Raiders coach Marsha Sharp has endorsed the hiring of Knight.
Fans Go On Buying Frenzy
Talk about Knight's hiring has led to a surge in interest for season tickets. And local clothing stores that carry Tech paraphernalia also have enjoyed a boost.
"It's been nuts," said Red Raider Outfitter vice president Stephen Spiegelberg.
The store was planning to sell $12 red-and-black camouflage T-shirts at the arena Friday that read: "The General's Army: Serving to Protect the U-Knighted Spirit Arena."
Protecting their home court wasn't something the Red Raiders did particularly well this season. The team was 7-8 at home and finished 9-19 overall.
The season before Knight was hired by Indiana, the Hoosiers went 7-17, 3-11 in Big Ten. They were 17-7, 9-5 in his first season and went on to win four consecutive Big Ten titles from 1973 to 1976.
Overall, Knight has amassed a 763-289 career record while coaching at Army for six years and Indiana for 29. Besides three national championships, his record includes 11 Big Ten championships and an Olympic gold medal in 1984.
Knight is 117 victories behind former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, who leads the NCAA Division I all-time coaching victories list.
Tech administrators would like to see Knight surpass Smith while at Tech. The new Red Raiders coach already has begun recruiting.
He was in Hutchinson, Kan., Tuesday for the national junior college tournament, where two Tech signees were playing. And he called a Houston-area high school coach on Wednesday to let him know he wanted one of his players to visit Tech and hopes to sign him.
"We're getting one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, and he is getting the opportunity to finish up what has already been a great career," Myers said. "Texas Tech will be a better place for hiring Bob Knight."